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Big Data and Cloud Computing in Academics

The need for community clouds in universities

Information Delivery Needs in Academics
Analyzing massive amounts of unstructured content and extracting information out of them is necessary for many industry verticals and particularly important for academics. The following points highlight the growing needs for information delivery in the field of education and research:

  • (Higher) Education Going Virtual: With the increased costs of higher education and other federal-related restrictions on travel from other countries, higher education is turning more toward the virtual class room and this trend will increase in the future. This means that there are an increasing number of students who will look for information over the virtual classrooms and by other means such as social media, access through smart devices, etc. The more unstructured the data, the greater the need to process them toward meaningful content for students.
  • Access to More Data for the Student Community: More and more libraries are making their content available over electronic media, and petabytes of new data is generated from various research and other means. The increased amount of data, while good for the academic community, also brings the risk that unless there is a good way to analyze this data and provide meaningful insights in a quick time, students may get lost with the volume of data that needs to be understood and applied.
  • Increased Competition and Innovation Needs: As enterprises are looking for innovation for survival and need to compete with others to stay ahead, this competition is brought into the universities and higher education institutes, and more academic projects are sponsored by larger enterprises towards their innovation needs. These real-life projects are no longer confined to labs but need a lot of real-time data and that too is massive amounts of data, and this has increased the information delivery needs.

While these are just a few of the points, it is obvious that much like other industries the academic field is also in need of massive processing power that's scalable and available on demand and can analyze large amounts of data.

Fortunately the emergence of cloud computing and Big Data analytics has provided a perfect combination for supporting the needs of the academic community.

Cloud Computing and the Academic Community
The cloud platform over all makes a perfect platform to support the information needs of the academic community.

  • While there is a great interest for innovation from the students' point of view, the academic field is generally considered a nonprofit area that's driven by scholarships, grants and other means. This means that the multi-tenant, dynamically scalable nature of the cloud platform is a natural fit for the academic community.
  • Virtual classrooms and the usage of devices like tablets will make the student community able to connect to the cloud to obtain the information needed rather than by traditional means. Consider a student sitting in any part of the world accessing a research report in a university in California from their tablets using cloud.

Big Data Analytics in Academics
As mentioned above, with the increased need for the student community to search and analyze massive amounts of data, the new Big Data analytical tools available over the cloud comes as a perfect fit for the same. For example, large libraries are digitizing their content and making them available in electronic media. Similarly the student needs to search a variety of content outside of universities like scanned images, social media information and web blogs. Big Data analytics tools like Hadoop can be effectively used to perform massive indexing, searching and analysis of this unstructured content that will be of use to the student community.

High Performance Computing and Academics
New Research topics coupled with the massive amounts of data to analyze together increase the need for high performance computing for the higher education. The cloud platform again provides easy access for the academic community to support these research needs. For example one such cloud implementation for Amazon HPC has support for academic research and higher education.

High Performance Computing (HPC) allows scientists and engineers to solve complex science, engineering and business problems using applications that require high bandwidth, low latency networking, and very high compute capabilities. Typically, scientists and engineers must wait in long queues to access shared clusters or acquire expensive hardware systems. Using Amazon EC2 Cluster instances, customers can expedite their HPC workloads on elastic resources as needed and save money by choosing from low-cost pricing models that match utilization needs.

Community Clouds / Collaboration and Education
Higher education and the student community need a pool of resources and collaboration so that best of innovation can be derived from them. Community clouds represent the cloud formation of members of specific community. In that context, several educational institutions, publishers, researchers and universities can join together and form a community cloud that will serve the student community. There are already a few initiatives to start a community cloud from various universities.

Summary
As evident there is a growing need for higher education and the academic field in terms of information delivery, Big Data analytics and high performance computing, and cloud computing and its components perfectly fit the needs of the next generation of the academic community.

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